Cork dairy farmer Brian O’Keeffe sees vaccination as an essential component of good calf-rearing following his bitter experience of the ravages of calf scour. Despite his horrendous experience, he now says that he would not be without vaccination as it has enabled him to double his herd size without losing one single calf.
Having experienced a serious problem with calf scour a number of years ago, Cork dairy farmer Brian O’Keeffe regards vaccination of cows prior to calving, combined with colostrum feeding and strict hygiene, as essential components of good calf-rearing. Brian, who runs a herd of 80 cows at Johnstown, Glanworth, has bitter experience of the ravages wreaked by scour.
“About 10 years ago, we had a terrible outbreak. We lost around 10 calves due to Rotavirus. It was a nightmare experience. No matter what we did, we couldn’t keep them alive. “Every year since then, we have vaccinated the cows against scour. The herd size has doubled since we started vaccinating and we have not lost one calf due to scour”, said Brian.
He is rigid about getting colos-trum into calves early. Using a Speedy Feeder, each calf is bottle-fed four litres of colos-trum immediately after birth and another four litres within 24 hours. Although a calf born unseen during the night may have sucked, it still gets the four litres through the Speedy Feeder. He also attaches huge impor-tance to housing and hygiene. A new calf house was built in 2010. The house is cleaned and disinfected after each bunch of calves.
Brian took over the farm from his parents, John and Rita, in 2009. They were then milking 40 cows. The herd size has since doubled. Yield is now averaging 1,350gals (6,100 litres)/cow. All calves are reared on the farm. Bullocks are sold as stores at around 16 months and all heifers are not needed for replacements are reared to beef at two years. Brian has Fresian, Hereford and Angus stock bulls. Calving is due to start next week and the vast bulk of cows will have calved by St. Patrick’s Day.
Having doubled cow numbers in recent years, does he plan further expansion? “No, I intend to stick with 80 cows. I could go a bit further in cow numbers but, for lifestyle reasons, I will stick the mixture of dairying and beef”, he said.